Should Students Choose Their Academic Courses?

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[ot-caption title=”PC students studying together before their GovPol AP test; while some enjoy the social sciences, others struggle to get through it. (via Peyton Elias, sophomore)”]

It seems to be that most students have their strengths. Wherever there is a strength, however, a weakness seems to follow closely behind. Perhaps someone is an incredible math student, but struggles in history. On the other hand, another student could be a strong writer, but a bad scientist. As long as high school curriculum continues to require a wide range of academic courses, there will always be some high school students frustrated to spend their evenings studying the periodic table of elements while others are thrilled to learn more about chemistry. The debate over how wide or narrow a high school curriculum should be continues to be a question in the field of academia. Should high school students be required to study all academic subjects or should they be allowed to focus on just the ones they want to pursue a career in?

No matter the perspective, both arguments have merit. Many people believe that high school students should be required to study a wide spectrum of subjects, even if they have an interest in one in particular. These people argue that a variety of subjects contributes to a more well-rounded student. Encompassing multiple fields of knowledge at a young age will benefit the student when they transition into the workforce and society as an adult. This side also proposes that most high school students are still discovering their passions and developing their talents. Considering this fact, arguers assert that students are too young to recognize what their career path will be.  In addition, even the most passionate student may change their career path in college or even later in life. Having the basic knowledge acquired from a core curriculum from high school allows students to have a wider array of choices when they choose their majors in college and careers afterward.

The Pine Crest administrators weigh in on this debate as well.  Pine Crest’s Assistant Upper School Head/Dean of Students Mr. Pierson states, “Academic institutions like Pine Crest have the responsibility of preparing each and every student for life. Every one of the core classes plays a key role in the process of preparing the ‘complete student.'”  Head of the Upper School Mr. Walters explains, “Taking courses that do not necessarily interest a person from the start is a way to diversify one’s talents, and who knows—it could end up yielding a positive experience that turns into something really special.”

Some Pine Crest students agree with this position. Junior Huey O’Neil shares, “I feel that students should have to take core classes, but perhaps Pine Crest should also offer more focused classes.” Huey believes that by adding more career specific courses, students would be more prepared for their intended futures; core academic classes, however, should still be obligatory.

An equally passionate group of voices argues that a more narrow focus for high school students will better prepare them for the future that lies ahead. This group believes that by allowing students to focus on their interests, they will be more motivated, and in turn, more willing to learn.  Sophomore Sydney Aronberg agrees with this point of view; she says, “I think it is a waste of time to take classes that you will not use in your future. If everyone focused on their given career path, then there would be a better workforce. People would know more about their own subject rather than all this other information.”

For example, junior Carly Feldman acknowledges her strengths and weaknesses.  “I’ve always been good at math and science. More recently, I’ve developed a love for science.  I love class and I feel confident when I study because all of the material is exciting to me.”  Because of this, she would like to become a doctor.  Some of her other classes, however, trouble her a great amount.  “The social sciences have always been hard for me. A lot of times, it’s just because I’m not so interested.”  If Feldman knows what she wants to do, it seems rather frustrating that she has to struggle through classes that she will not take as soon as she gets to college.

This ongoing debate over a broad curriculum versus a narrow curriculum is one that has occupied the minds of students and faculty members for years. It seems like under the current curriculum, students may struggle for not being a strong student in each core class.  However, it is worth noting that a foundation in a wide range of subjects is essential in expanding our ability to think and understand the world we live in.

Sources: Debate.org, Alternet